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Planning

Magnolias prefer full sun to light shade. If you live in a particularly warm or dry climate, your magnolia might benefit from a location shaded from the hot afternoon sun. If possible, avoid exposed, windy locations because strong winds can damage large flowers and the typically brittle branches. Most magnolias grow best in moist, well-drained, slightly acid soils but neutral to slightly alkaline soils are also suitable for growth. Magnolias are adaptable to clay, loam or sand soils, but most grow poorly in wet or poorly drained soils. Well-established plants can be moderately drought tolerant.

Planting

Magnolia grows best in acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5) well drained, loamy, moist, rich soils. If you are in doubt about the acidity of your soil, take a sample to the Cooperative Extension Agent in your county for testing.

Dig a hole about two times the size of your pot and the same depth as the root ball. Set the soil you have dug out aside. Remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball. Place the plant in the planting hole and replace the soil with the mix and gently pack down the dirt. To avoid planting to deep make sure the plant is at a position with the top most roots at the soil line. 

If desired, construct a water basin at the base of the tree about 36 inches in diameter. Apply a thin layer of mulch over the root ball keeping the mulch a few inches away from the trunk of the tree. Place a layer of mulch around the plant that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) thick (thicker for light mulches like pine needles). Fertilizer is not necessary at planting. 

Fertilization

Once established, growth can be accelerated with light, frequent applications of fertilizer during the first three growing seasons.

 

Year 1

Year 2

 Year 3

 Year 4 

8-8-8

or

10-10-10

½ cup along the perimeter of the planting hole in March, May, and July.

2 cups and broadcast it in a circle-shaped area from the tips of the canopy to 3 feet beyond the canopy in March, May and July.

4 cups and broadcast it in a circle-shaped area from the tips of the canopy to 6 feet beyond the canopy in March, May and July.

The tree should have a well-established root system and should be able to forage for nutrients on its own.

Espoma Holly Tone (Organic)

1 ½ cup along the perimeter of the planting hole in March, May, and July.

4 ½ cup and broadcast it in a circle-shaped area from the tips of the canopy to 3 feet beyond the canopy in March, May and July.

6-10 cups and broadcast it in a circle-shaped area from the tips of the canopy to 6 feet beyond the canopy in March, May and July.

The tree should have a well-established root system and should be able to forage for nutrients on its own.

Magnolia roots have been shown to grow more than three times further than the canopy width of the tree, so they can obtain nutrients applied to nearby plants and turf grass. 

Water

The first year is a critical time for your new magnolia. It has not had time to establish itself yet and therefore is not as strong as an older plant. To prevent the plant from dying, it must be watered twice a week on light soil and once a week on clay soil. Be sure to soak the entire root system deeply, this will take about 45-60 minutes.

For best growth and production, magnolias should receive at least one inch of water a week. During dry spells, water is mandatory. If not properly watered during dry spells, flowers may be mitigated.  Keep at least 4 feet around the shrub clear of grass and weeds, for less competition for water. 

Pruning

If you want to prune or shape your magnolia, do it while the tree is very young since large branches don’t heal very well from pruning. Otherwise, just remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches anytime. Mature magnolia trees do not recover from pruning and can sustain fatal wounds. Therefore, magnolia tree pruning on older specimens should only be done as a last resort when necessary.

Insect & Disease Control

The Neolecanium, or the Magnolia Scale, is the most destructive of magnolia pests. These insects grow within the thick foliage spread of magnolias without displaying any signs of their early development. Once the crawlers emerge, they feed intensively on the young buds and branches. Magnolia scale excretes honeydew after feeding on the tree. This provides an ideal spot for black sooty mold to grow, and it also attracts ants and wasps.